Monday, February 22, 2010

Touch-Screen Electronic Craps Table

Electronic equipment has become so common that it would hardly come as a surprise if they came up with electronic toilet paper (no kidding, I've already seen electronic cigarettes). Although some electronic gadgets are nothing but gimmicks, we can't deny that there are plenty of useful tools that changed our lives. But there are also some pieces of electronic equipment that fall into a grey area, or at least still have to stand the test of time to prove if they are really useful, necessary or practical. I find it that many newly-developed pieces of casino equipment fall into this category.

In this post I'll be talking about a new electronic craps table, developed by TCS JohnHuxley. Dice have been around for at least 7,000 years and remained virtually unchanged throughout history. Some improvements have been made to the manufacturing processes, in the 20th century, but that didn't really make any significant changes to the dice. But the inventors of dice would have never dreamed of some kind of electronic craps table with some kind of touch-screen capabilities.

Below is a photo of the touch-screen craps layout. The entire surface of the layout is one giant touch-screen LCD. In other words, the chips and the dice are CG icons that can be visibly moved around by dragging your fingertips on the screen.

The concept of cards and dice appearing on a screen is not new to casinos. After all, slot machines are no longer mechanical, all the results are just displayed on the screen. But the problem with electronic slots is that there's absolutely no transparency. To put is simply, you put your money in the machine, press a button and then the machine tells you if you won or lost. It really boggles the mind how anyone could ever be so naïve to trust such a machine, that had a) obviously been designed to collect money for the casino and b) that offer absolutely no transparency in how the machine comes up with the results. But a sucker is born every minute and apparently there's no shortage of those that still hope they can win anything from these machines.

Unlike electronic slots that simply display the results generated by some kind of internal (and invisible) Random Number Generator [RNG] the touch-screen craps table uses a pair of actual physical dice to generate the random results. In other words, a pair of dice is used as a mechanical RNG, for this game. Below is a picture of the dice.

The dice are encased inside of an enclosure made of a glass dome and a vibrating plate. The plate visibly vibrates as the player drags the virtual dice on the LCD screen. Then, when the player releases the virtual dice, the vibrating plate produces some vigorous punches that really send the dice flying, as the virtual dice bounce off of the virtual walls of the LCD screen, apparently driven by their own inertia. The player can fully observe the physical dice as he is handling the virtual ones on the LCD layout. A camera on top of the dome reads the actual result of the physical roll and the same result is mirrored on the virtual dice. (A video demo is available on Cardshark.TV, under the title Touch-Screen Electronic Craps Table).

This handling definitely offers some transparency that would otherwise be totally nonexistent, if the virtual dice relied on some kind of internal RNG, such as slot machines do. However, despite this transparency it would still be very easy to gaff this equipment, simply by installing an electromagnet under the vibrating plate and using magnetic dice. But let's not get into this, yet, for now we are just examining a newly-developed piece of casino equipment.

Now that we understand how this thing works we may speculate on the practicality of this equipment.

First of all, this equipment was not primarily developed to replace traditional craps tables. The main purpose for this equipment is to be used in various gaming centers, that don't have a proper casino license. Gaming centers can be found in cities all over the world, in countries where casinos are not allowed, or where casinos are restricted just for foreigners. In many such places gaming centers are still allowed, but the games are restricted to various automated solutions. In other words, the games cannot be operated by croupiers.

So, for gaming centers this is a great solution. One of the main features of craps that has always attracted gamblers to that particular game is the fact that craps is the only casino game where the players can "control" their own results. Of course, this control is just an illusion, but nevertheless, in craps the player will never have a reason to blame the dealer or another player for his bad luck. After all, he rolled his own dice. Many craps players feel that this control of the dice gives them a real chance at winning. Since this electronic craps table still allows the players to shake their own dice as much as they please I feel the gadget has a good chance at being a the typical purchasers of this type of gaming equipment. But gamblers are a "flexible" bunch. And if they see a game they think they can beat, they are quick to adopt it.

In closing I should probably mention that ShuffleMaster also recently came up with an electronic craps table. But their table is totally different and I should save that for another post.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Newly Discovered Paintings of Gamblers and Cheats

As an admirer of fine arts I always thought my site would be incomplete without a listing of paintings depicting various gambling scenes; with a focus on the crooked aspect of gambling, of course. This listing, titled The Art History of Cheating was added to my site on August 20, 2002, and has been periodically updated, whenever I happen to discover new (i.e. previously unknown to me) paintings or whenever I happen to feel like doing an update. Today was one of those days.

I will not write up a long blog about paintings that I've never heard of until a few hours ago, but I still think it's a good idea to list a few highlights in my blog. I added a total of ten paintings to the list, and here are a few highlights that I think my readers may be interested in.

Below are two paintings by Alcide Segoni, a 19th century artist I've never heard of in my life, but as it turns out he did happen to produce two paintings that are thematically of interest to me. The works in question are entitled, The Cheat, and, Found Out, and as you can clearly see from the images, they are sequential.

I do not consider these paintings to be real works of art, just humorous decorative paintings, and if it weren't for the theme I would never even give them a second glance. But there they are.

Another painting I would never give a second glance, if it weren't for the same reason, is The Card Sharps, by Rev. Matthew William Peters. Another artist I've never heard of. But he did make a painting of card sharps, so here it is.

Amongst the ten paintings that I added to the listing there are, however, at least two that unquestionably belong on the list of significant works of art. The works in question are two paintings by Edvard Munch.

The Art History of Cheating chapter is still far from being complete. I actually have a folder on my hard drive, with images of paintings I eventually have to add to the listing, but since this chapter is more of an afterthought to my site I just couldn't get myself to do all this work today.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


This is one of the newest gadgets for the card tables. It's been around since December of last year, so this post is not exactly breaking news, but I've only heard of it a couple of weeks ago, so it's still new to me.

So, what the hell is this thing? As the name would suggest, the Wheel-R-Dealer is some kind of apparatus that is used to assist a dealer in a card game; some kind of a one-deck dealing shoe, if you will. There is a motorized wheel inside the apparatus, so I guess the wheel is what gives it the name.

This apparatus is not intended for casinos, it's strictly a home game item. But I happen to know that there is at least one company that is entertaining the idea to market this for casinos, specifically for poker games. However, that company is well aware of the fact that this gadget is far from being ready for the casino market, so it'll be interesting to see if anything ever becomes of it.

This is not the first mechanical accessory that's been developed for private card games. The more popular items were mechanical card shufflers. That is somewhat understandable because there are so many people that have absolutely no idea how to shuffle cards, so the shufflers were primarily developed for those clumsy folks. But dealing cards from a deck is hardly a challenge for anyone, so, one may ask, what's the point of this gadget? Unlike the shufflers, the Wheel-R-Dealer was not made for the clumsy folks, it was made for those who are a little too good with a deck of cards. Or better say, to prevent such folks from doing what they're good at, which is, dealing from the bottom of the deck.

Many of the sites selling the Wheel-R-Dealer are advertising it as a cheating-prevention accessory. Bottom dealing is no longer possible, and neither is second dealing. I think I can easily add peeking and playing the light (using a shiner) to the list of cheating techniques that are not possible to do with this gadget.

Of course, just because one cannot do any of the afore-mentioned cheating techniques, it still doesn't mean that it's no longer possible to cheat. In fact, I can think of a few reasons why this gadget could even help a card cheat.

The first reason is the false sense of security. This is a purely psychological reason that may give the suckers a piece of mind and are thus likely to be less alert. But the other reason I can think of is how it may help a cheat that specializes in other cheating techniques, such as running up the deck, or even cold decking. The last thing a cheat wants after a cold deck switch is for a clumsy player to fumble up on the deal. So, this gadget makes sure the sucker doesn't deal a double card by accident.

So, if there are ways in which the Wheel-R-Dealer helps a card cheat, the help is marginal, at best, and it would be fair to say that the gadget offers more security than it creates opportunities for cheating.

Lastly, one may ask, how good or practical is this damn thing?

It does require some minimal practice, but I can't really imagine how anyone would have trouble learning. One basically just has to push the top card forwards, either with the thumb, if handling the machine with one hand, or with the index finger of the opposite hand, if one prefers two-handed handling. Unless the cards are sticky, a single card will always be pushed forward. The top card basically hits a slightly slanted edge, which causes the card to elevate and hit a micro switch. When the card is in that position the force pushes it slightly forward into a slot, where it is engulfed by a spinning rubber wheel that shoots the card out the front end. Once the card clears that area the witch drops into off position and the motorized wheel stops spinning.

This machine is very easy to use to shoot the cards across the table, face down, but dealing burn cards and face-up cards is more difficult. However, with some practice that can be learned, too.

I shot a short video demo; available at Cardshark.TV.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Refill Keys for Fruit Machines

In a recent thread on the CARDSHARK Online Bulletin Board one member asked a question about using a refill key to cheat against the so-called fruit machines, that can be found in pubs, throughout the UK. The bulletin board thread turned out to raise some interesting issues, so I decided to edit out some of the comments and included them in this blog. But before I get into it, let's make sure everybody understands what these "fruit machines" are.

Those who are not familiar with fruit machines may "mistake" them for slot machines. But they are not called slot machines, they are called fruit machines. So, what's the difference?

To ask what is the difference between a slot machine and a fruit machine is the same as asking what's the difference between a bar and a pub. There is no difference. Both of these establishments are places where one may find people socializing over drinks and snacks and/or drunkards pissing away all their cash on beer and liquor. Some may call such places bars, or a pubs, or a taverns, or a gin-mills, but at the end of the day they're all the same thing. And a fruit machine is also no different from what is more commonly called, a slot machine. You put your money in it, you press a button or pull a handle, you look at some blinking lights and spinning wheels, and you are told if you won or lost. And at the end of the day you leave with less cash than you started with. So, there's not difference. The only differences are irrelevant (such as the name), simply made up to satisfy some local laws. Basically, in England slot machines are illegal, in pubs, so they install "fruit machines" instead. Now it's not a violation of the law.

Now that we understand the "difference(s)" let's talk about the issue at hand. So, to keep things simple, let me just include some slightly edited bulletin board posts.

John Smith -- Posted: Feb. 03 2010,11:01

I never play slot machines (fruit machines) because here in the UK they legally need to pay out a minimum of 70% so I know I have virtually no chance of winning. But a little while ago, completely by accident I came across these. Refill Key's. Most of the modern machines have a function that allows the owner to see the payout rate, how much money is in the machine, when it last paid out and refill the machine up without opening it. The refill keys are what allows the owner to do this.

This information is supposedly of use to the player because if there are say four machines in an arcade. They all look the same but when you turn the key...

●machine one has a payout rate of 75% and $25 in it.
●machine two has a payout rate of 75% and $150 in it.
●machine three has a payout rate of 98% and $25 in it.
●machine four has a payout rate of 98% and $150 in it.

It would make sense to play machine four.

Where I am the keys are completely legal because they only supply information and don’t alter how the machines work.

I’m quite happy with the fact they can help you lose less, but could the keys supply enough information so profit can be made, does anyone know anything else about them and does anyone have experience using them.

sinclar -- Posted: Feb. 03 2010,15:38

I've never heard about those refill keys but I would say that the only "gambling strategy" between the 75% payout rate slot machine and the 98% payout rate one is that could expect to play longer on the last one before you loose all your money...

If I was the owner of those slot machines I surely would be interested to know what would be more profitable for me:

Having my customers gambling on 75% payout rate machines, loosing and leaving faster or having them play on the 98% ones, having more fun, staying longer, and well, spending more money on drinks.

Mr. Pink -- Posted: Feb. 03 2010,15:38

As sinclar already pointed out, the machines have a negative expectation either way. The house can't lose no matter how small the edge is. For the house, any loses are only fluctuations. For the player, any wins are the result of pure luck, but it only works for short-term players. For example, if you have a party at XYZ Bar on your wedding day and you tell your bride, "Hey, let's pull the handle, once, for our wedding." Then, if you have a key, you might as well use it to determine which machine has the higher percentage and then you play that one. You may win or you may lose, but if you win and never play again, you are definitely a winner. As long as you never play again.

Outside of cheating or a machine malfunction, that's pretty much the only way you can hope to win at this. And if you do win this way it's still just gambling.

Oh, I forgot to say the most obvious thing...

The only way to win at this is to own it.

John Smith -- Posted: Feb. 04 2010,05:24

I see now the only difference between 75% payout machine and a 98%payout machine is the 98% payout machine pays out more often but you still get out less out than you put in, and the keys would only help minimize the loss, they don’t help you win.

Mr. Pink -- Posted: Feb. 04 2010,07:23

...the keys would only help minimize the loss...

Not quite. I think the effect is quite the opposite, actually.

First of all, the loss is still 100% of the player's bankroll, if the player keeps gambling. And what gambler doesn't? There are only a few thing that stop gamblers from gambling, and at the top of the list is the loss of entire bankroll. Also, if a player decides to stop (either with a small loss or even with a profit) and then comes back, it really doesn't count as the loss being minimized, since the casino then gets more action from that same player. Even if the player comes back a few years later, or goes to a different casino, the math is the same as if he just kept gambling. In other words, that time break doesn't count at all, because it isn't even a variable in this whole math. If the player comers back at some future time the break is mathematically irrelevant. It's the same as if he just fell asleep in front of the machine, or took a bathroom break.

But I said that the key accomplishes the opposite, so...

The reason I say that is because it takes more of the player's time to lose the bankroll. Time is an asset, too. There's an expression, Time is money. And it's true.

A casino gambler, or in our case, a fruit machine gambler, has to have another source of income. The source of income is definitely not playing the fruit machine. So, by spending more time at the fruit machine, to lose the same amount of money, the gambler is deprived of the limited time that he has left on this planet. We all have a limited amount of time, to do what we have to do in life (part of it is earning money) and then we die. So, whenever he's "playing" he can't be earning and if he spends more time playing it only eats up into his extra time, some of which would be spent doing something productive.

Also, like sinclar said, a player that spends more time playing the machine will spend more money on drinks.

Gambling games that have a higher and more frequent payout rate are actually more vile than quick scams (yes, I call slot machines scams). If a sucker gets stung fast he will simply go away and learn a lesson (in 99% of cases). But a player that has experienced what it's like to win will get addicted (in 99% of cases). And the "winning," in this case, is just an illusion. What it is in reality is just a short term fluctuation from a trend that goes into one direction: downwards.

So, those keys are good for nothing, really. They actually help the racket in the same way that all the card counting literature turned out to help the casinos win more money on BJ tables, because of all these "card counters."

If you have one of those keys, add it to your collection of crooked gambling paraphernalia. Yes, it is cheating equipment, but it is not used to cheat the machines, it is used to cheat the suckers that use them.

Also, let's look at the situation from yet another mathematical perspective.

Let's say a joint has one machine with 75% payout rate and another with 98% payout rate. If the key doesn't exist, players will come and play those machines. Some players will pick the 75% machine, others will pick the 98% machine. This selection will be the result of pure chance. For a joint it makes absolutely no difference if a player picked the 98% machine as a result of chance or by scanning it. In either case that machine will be played by someone. And that someone will turn out to be a loser, in either case. So, it makes absolutely no difference for the joint, from a mathematical point of view. The only difference is for the players who have and use this key, because they will spend more time gambling and possibly also "invest" more of their capital into this "business venture" with the false confidence that they have an edge.

There's only one way to win at gambling: cheating. If you own a casino, or a slot machine, you are also cheating, by my definition [see my blog post Are Casinos Cheating?. And if you are playing a game of skill, such as chess or pool, you are not gambling; you are engaged in a contest of skill. Now, one may ask, where's poker in all this? That's best left for another thread.

So, what conclusion can we reach, from all this? The only reasonable conclusion I am able to reach is to stay away from this sucker game.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Cheats vs. Advantage Players, part 2

In an earlier post, entitled Cheats vs. Advantage Players, I argued that advantage play is just a form of cheating. In this post I just want to emphasize this point with one example from the blackjack tables.

The goal is to catch a glimpse of the dealer's hole card. Now let's see how a cheat would do it and then see how an advantage player might go about it. Then, let's see if there are any fundamental differences.

A cheat may bring a mirror to a casino trying to catch the reflection of the hole card. The act of bringing an actual prop (i.e. a mirror) is hard evidence of intent and premeditation. So, in this case the player is cheating, no question about it.

There could be other examples, such as using a camera system with a transmitter and a remote partner working some high-tech equipment inside of a van, in the parking lot. But I don't want to go over possible scenarios in great detail, all I really want to do is to establish the fact that a cheat (or cheats) will deliberately do things do catch a glimpse at the dealer's hole card. In the two afore mentioned examples, actual cheating equipment is used. But can cheats engage in this cheating conspiracy without any equipment at all? Well, since the definition of cheating does not necessarily mean that equipment needs to be used, I would say, yes. In fact, there are many forms of cheating that use no equipment whatsoever. So, things shouldn't be any different for those who wish to secretly glimpse at the dealer's hole card in blackjack. But how would it be done without mirrors or cameras? Well, wouldn't that be exactly what advantage players are doing?

So, let's go over some "advantage play" examples, where the "advantage player" is trying to accomplish the same exact thing as the afore mentioned cheat(s).

An advantage player may simply notice by pure accident that one particular dealer is flashing the hole card. At this point, the player took no deliberate steps to make this happen. But after the accidental discovery of the first instance of flashing, the player will pay more attention to the dealer handling the hole card. Now, can "paying more attention to" be defined as taking a deliberate step? I think so. In fact, I also happen to think that the taking of a deliberate step begins before the consecutive round. A player that knows the dealer's hole card will immediately adjust his/her play to benefit from the information. For example, if the dealer's hole card is an Ace and the player happened to notice the hole card is a 10, what will the player do when the dealer offers insurance? The fact that the player does take insurance is a deliberate step based on the information. So, the cheating begins right then and the player is definitely not gambling, since he knows the exact outcome of the insurance bet. The cheating continues when the "advantage" player decides to play more attention to that dealer handling the hole card, in every consecutive round. Fundamentally, I don't see any difference between hole card play by using a mirror, or by taking advantage of a weakness. But typically, "advantage play" doesn't stop there, anyway.

On his next visit to the casino, our "advantage player" will look around the gaming floor to see where his "favorite" dealer is dealing. In fact, our advantage player enters the casino with the intention to seek out the weak dealer first. That's a textbook definition of premeditation. The advantage player will then try to catch glimpse of the hole card buy strategically, and very deliberately, positioning himself in the exact spot where the hole card had a good chance of briefly flashing. All that is premeditated and deliberate. And all that is fundamentally no different from using a mirror or camera equipment.

There are many more examples of advantage play, but in all instances the actions are deliberate and often premeditated. That's exactly what makes advantage play just a form of cheating. I am very well aware of the fact that advantage play is not illegal, but the only reason it's not illegal is because it cannot be proven in court without a confession.